Snapshots from Wollongong – Mt Keira

Gum leaf on the track

M is for Mt Keira.

Mt Keira and Mt Kembla although not mighty alps, dominate the Illawarra Escarpment.  These landforms are of considerable significance to the local Dharawal people,  who refer to Mt Kembla as the men’s mountain and  Mt Keira as the women’s mountain.

Along with Mt Keira and Mt Kembla, there are also other suburbs called Mt Pleasant, Mt St Thomas, Marshall Mount and Mt Ousley.

Mt Keira

 

Mt Keira is a small residential suburb on the side of Mt Keira itself. This flat peak of mostly sandstone rises 434 M above sea level.  Only 460 families call Mt Keira home, but it is a very popular recreational venue for visitors and locals alike. There is a charming picnic ground at Byarong Park which is also one of the trailheads for the Mt Keira Ring Track. In addition to this walking track, there are few sidetracks and other mountain bike tracks which are well used.

There is both a Scout Camp and a Guides Camp, parts of which can be hired for private functions.

Mt Keira Ring Track

The Ring Track is around 5.5 km long and encircles the Mt  Keira Summit. The track has recently been renovated, and you can now walk all the way around. Before this, the section below the Mt Kiera Lookout was closed due to rock falls. The renovation has seen the installation of hundreds of steps and a few boardwalks.

There is a Summit Park, which has a cafe. The cafe opens Thursdays – Sundays and has a magnificent view over the entire Wollongong coastal plain.

I walked the Ring Track on the first weekend in October 2019.  It took me longer than I expected because I took wrong turns, twice. While it is well signposted there are a few anomalies with the directional markers which meant I missed the two crucial turns. The 5.5 km walk became 10.7 km!

I was pleased to come across a stand of waratahs which I otherwise would have missed so being lost was a serendipitous adventure.  Waratahs are NSW State emblem and are relatively rare. Their showy, glossy red flowers really stand out in the olive green Australian bushscape.

Mt Keira is definitely worth a visit. Take your walking shoes and a picnic basket.

 

Photo of the Week 40

Photo of the Week Challenge

Beach Fishing

I was going through my old photos looking for images for my Snapshots from Wollongong Series when I came across this one from Woonona Beach. It was taken in 2012 when I first began my photographic journey. It would have been taken with a Panasonic FZ100. Perhaps a tad overprocessed for my liking now, I think it is still a strong composition.

 

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Snapshots Of Wollongong – Bellambi

B is for Bellambi

B might be for Bellambi but it’s  also for Balgownie, Berkeley, Brownsville and Bulli, some of which will be covered in their own posts.

 

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Bellambi is located to the north of Wollongong

 

Bellambi is a beachside suburb with significant indigenous connections and it remains important for the local Dharawal people. Large middens that existed near the beach have been destroyed by industrial development, transport infrastructure and residential housing. There is an active indigenous community which support events such as a large Reconciliation Walk which occurs during NAIDOC Week.

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Things to do in Bellambi

Bellambi has some tremendous recreational features which means there is plenty to do. It is right on the Wollongong – Thirroul cycleway which passes within metres of the sandy beach, Bellambi Lagoon and several picnic and bbq areas. There is a public toilet and a children’s playground at Bellambi Point Park.  The beach is patrolled, and there is a fabulous ocean pool.

Bellambi Ocean Pool 4a

The pool is fed directly from the ocean and is not treated in any way.  The beach is within easy walking distance from the Railway station.  There is a bowling alley on the western side of the Highway.

 

Bellambi’s stats and numbers

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Bellambi doesn’t really have a commercial area, but there are a few shops, (pharmacist, doctors’ surgery, a petrol station) a pub and a bowling club on or near Pioneer Drive.  This means you will have to go to the next closest retail centre, in  Corrimal. There is a large co-educational Catholic High School – Holy Spirit College and a primary school. The designated local public high school is Woonona High.

Bellambi is a social housing hub, with 40% of residences being rented and the majority of these from the Department of Housing.  This aspect has given Bellambi a “bad reputation”  as an economically depressed suburb.  On the plus side, the housing blocks are large and flat with most being the old 1/4 acre block with the three-bed fibro house plonked in the middle.  Once again, another suburb ripe for gentrification.

 

 

Snapshots from Wollongong – Unanderra

U is for Unanderra

Let’s face it! Some parts of Wollongong are going to be more exciting than others, but it would appear that Unanderra is the spiritual centre of Wollongong.  According to Wikipedia, its only attractions are a Catholic Church, an Orthodox Syriac Church and the biggest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere – The Nan Tien Temple.

Apart from this, Unanderra has a railway station, a couple of primary schools, a small shopping centre and that’s about it. There is one pub and a large leagues club, Wests Illawarra. Wests is open 21 hours a day, every day of the year. You can’t tell me that place is not sucking people dry with its poker machines.

Artwork on the Unanderra Hotel.
Unanderra Hotel

Unanderra is near Lake Illawarra on one of the broadest, flattest parts of the Illawarra coastline. It is a mixed bag of residential dwellings and industrial properties. Many of the business located here are related to the steel and coal industries.

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Unanderra’s numbers.

 

Unanderra 4 Infographic

 

Nan Tien Temple

The Nan Tien Temple is set in magnificent gardens and is right on the border between the suburbs of Berkeley and Unanderra. The temple is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. The complex boasts a large conference centre,  100 rooms of accommodation and a popular vegetarian restaurant. More recently the Nan Tien Institute has opened and offers courses for postgraduate studies as well as professional learning in applied Buddhist studies, wellbeing and mental health.

You can stay at the temple for a 2 or 3-day weekend retreat or a week-long monastic stay. These retreats offer participants an opportunity to understand the tenets of Buddhism.

Some other random facts about Unanderra

The RSPCA shelter for Wollongong is in Unanderra, so if you are looking for a rescue pet that’s the place to go.

It is home to the Illawarra Hockey Stadium, and it would seem most of their local couriers have the offices there so if you miss a delivery you have to head there to pick it up!

On the down-low, I shop at the Woollies (Woolworths)  at Unanderra because I had read somewhere that it is the cheapest one in the Illawarra. I never knew that the prices varied between Woollies stores, but apparently, they do. It’s not my closest one, but it is a bigger store, and I know the layout!

 

Snapshots from Wollongong – Port Kembla

P is for Port Kembla

Port Kembla is the industrial heart of Wollongong. Home to a massive steelworks which dominates the horizon from many vantage points, it is often considered grubby, polluted and frankly, a place to avoid. The main street has a reputation for being a cruising zone for those seeking the services of prostitutes.

Port Kembla Harbour
Port Kembla from Mt Kembla

Cloud factories are continuously pumping out steam and presumably other chemicals, and there is an eternal flame burning off gases which lights up the night sky.

Wentworth Street, Port Kembla
Wentworth Street, Port kembla

Sounds delightful heh!  But if you look a little further, you can find a beautiful beach, a heritage park and a quirky commercial district.

Port Kembla Location map
Just south of the CBD and right on the coast

 

BHPBiliton  (and its predecessors) have had a presence in the Illawarra since the late 1920s. While its operations have scaled-down over the last few decades, there is still a large and rambling complex of sheds, smokestacks and railways that take up an area from Cringilla, Coniston and Warrawong.

 

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Port Kembla Beach and Ocean Pool

At the end of Cowper Street, you’ll find a long sandy beach and a spectacular ocean pool. Unlike other sea pools in the Wollongong area, the one at Port Kembla is not fed by the tide, but it is filled with seawater. It stands a little above the beach and is surrounded by gorgeous rich yellow walls which give it a very Mediterranean feel. The kid’s pools are well shaded, and there are plenty of places to lie about in the sun on the grassy hill.

The adjoining beach is a long curve that stretches nearly 7 km and ends at Windang on the mouth of Lake Illawarra. The section near the pool is patrolled during the season. The Surf Life Saving Association of NSW rates it as a hazardous beach so it would be best to stick to swimming between the flags.

Port Kembla Beach

Wentworth Street.

The main retail strip is along Wentworth Street. It boasts 3 pubs (one of them closed) a night club (The Vault) and a few cafes and the quirky Wentworth Emporium. At 3 pm on a Saturday afternoon, most of the shops were closed. Through the glass, the cafes looked pretty hip and funky.  Joanne, who opens the Emporium on Fridays and Saturdays, said that business is pretty slow. Her primary source of income being her adjacent upholstery shop. The Emporium is a mix of homewares, bric-a-brac, and potted succulents.

Adding to the ghost-town-like feel, most of the shops are actually empty and for lease. The interiors of some are showing signs of refurbishment while others are filled with chaotic trash.

On the bright side, the area is rebranding itself as an artist’s colony.  The Red Point Artists’ Association is a cluster of businesses which includes a gallery, cafe and several studios from which local artists run workshops and sell their wares.

Another theme is also developing with bridal and bridal accessory businesses filling up the empty shops.

Street Art.

As part of a deliberate rejuvenation program, the annual Wonderwalls Street Art Festival was held in Port Kembla in February 2019. The festival is responsible for brightening up many boring walls in the main part of Wollongong. There are now several very large murals brightening things up in the streets and laneways of Port Kembla.

Heritage Park at Breakwater Battery

There is a small museum near the eastern breakwater wall of the deep water harbour. Originally an observation station built in WWII, it is now home to the Maritime Services Board and the NSW Water Police. The outdoor area has several battery points and some intriguing white pyramids that were moved there from Berkeley Beach. The pyramids were tank barriers and placed on the beach to prevent Japanese tanks from landing on our shores in the 1940’s. Now they serve as fascinating photographic subjects!

 

I get the feeling that Port Kembla is a sleeping giant and waiting for a boom. It would be a great time to get in and buy some property on the cheap and wait for gentrification to happen.

 

Snapshots from Wollongong Series.

Introducing an ongoing Snapshots from Wollongong series

My home town of Wollongong is a fabulously, diverse place. Although a small city by world standards, it is the third-largest in NSW and the 10th largest in Australia. I wrote my first snapshot post back in December 2017. Since then,  I have written a few more posts about things to see and do here.

Click on these links to read my posts about

An A-Z of Wollongong

Over the next few months, I am going to concentrate on a series of “Snapshots from Wollongong”. I have mapped out an A-Z of suburbs and will show you around. It’s not going to be all glitz and glamour but hopefully a truthful overview of the place I intend to call home till I fall off the perch.

The series is more likely to appeal to ‘Gong locals although if you are thinking of travelling to Australia, Wollongong is an excellent place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney. Some days you can get the whole beach to yourself!

True to my scattered form, I will not be approaching it in strict alphabetical order but just as the fancy takes me and when I can get to where to do the research. At this stage, I have nothing for Z! We don’t have a zoo.

The series starts proper,  this Friday, with P for Port Kembla! It won’t be every week and given I have identified 62 named suburbs in Wollongong’s Local Government Area, it’s going to take me a while! I’ll be throwing in other posts about other things too to keep the blog moving along.

BTW: I have some wooden postcards featuring Wollongong in my shop.

If you have an idea for Z, let me know in the comments below. In fact there is no I, Q V or X either!

 

Travel Mascots Part 4

The return of Iain

Several weeks ago, I reported that I had very carelessly lost Iain, my wee travel companion. I surmised that I had perhaps left him on the rooftop of my car while I packed my things or that I had simply left him on the rocks at Salen Jetty.

 

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The last known sighting of Iain

 

While devastated by his loss, I found another travel companion, Iain mac Iain. His black watch kilt and shawl at odds with the Royal Stewart tartan of his “father”. But hey, you have to make do with what you have, and I had a very generous donation of black watch tweed from my Airbnb host in Lewis.

Iain mac Iain was a valiant replacement. Forever seeking out his father, befriending other seemingly lost or abandoned travel mascots, he made it home safely to Australia after spending the better part of a month in Scotland. He had some grand adventures and has appeared in many unknown facebook posts as he was included in other people’s family snaps.

I sought the help of the good people of Salen Jetty. I messaged the shop as soon as I realised he was missing. We stayed in contact and finally the day after I flew back into Australia an Iain- sighting was made on Facebook! True to his armoury loving-self he was found sitting on top of a canon! My Salen Jetty shop contacts were quick to claim on my behalf.

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Now, three weeks after that first sighting he is here with me in Wollongong, Australia having a grand reunion with his dad! After an awkward handshake and a few minutes of small talk, it was man hugs all round!

 

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Dad!

 

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come here, Son!

Thanks to the power of the interwebs and the friendliness of a small community, we have been reunited! If you are ever in Salen Jetty, please drop in on these good folks, tell them you read the story of Iain and thank them on my behalf!

Thank you also to my friends who have joined in on Iain and Iain’s journeys, we’ve had some fun!

 

Photo of the Week 21

Sunrise

We have been blessed with some fantastic sunrises over the last few weeks. It makes getting up early for a run well worth it!

These images were taken with my iPhone SMAX from the public golf course overlooking City Beach, Wollongong.

 

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Now, that’s a great spot for a Golf Course!

 

 

 

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Can you hear the angels singing?